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UW-Eau Claire Nursing Students to Assist
with Health Promotion at Special Olympics

RELEASED: Aug. 3, 2009

EAU CLAIRE — A group of students in the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's accelerated nursing degree program and two nursing faculty members will participate in a new health promotion event as part of the Special Olympics State Outdoor Sports Tournament being held Aug. 7-9 in Eau Claire.

The tournament, being held at several venues around Eau Claire, features competition in softball, tee ball, tennis, bocce ball and golf. This year a new Healthy Athletes area will be included in the Athletes Village at Bollinger Fields, where the softball and bocce ball competitions will take place.

For the nursing students (all of whom have bachelor's degrees in another field and are enrolled in UW-Eau Claire's "fast-track" nursing degree program), the event caps off a summer unit on teaching and learning focused on the needs of athletes participating in Special Olympics. The entire class of 17 students designed teaching plans specifically for use in promoting healthy behaviors among Special Olympians. Beyond the classroom experience, six students will attend the Special Olympics tournament from 8 a.m.-noon Aug. 8 to assist with health promotion activities in the Healthy Athletes area.

Dr. Lee-Ellen Kirkhorn, associate professor of nursing and one of the instructors for the summer course, explained that the assignment was designed to help students understand that they will likely encounter many special populations in their nursing practice and will need to be flexible and try to understand the special needs of each of those populations to be effective as nurses.

"Only recently were assessment tools specifically designed for persons with Down syndrome, for example," Kirkhorn said. "For years, health professionals used average height and weight charts when doing physical assessments for this group, and it's recently been recognized that these just aren't applicable to this population."

Tammy Surges, an accelerated nursing student from Eau Claire, wrote a plan to inform the Special Olympians how the use of tobacco could negatively affect their health and performance as athletes. Surges is one of the students who will be on hand Aug. 8 to share her lesson plan with athletes waiting to participate in events. Her plan includes a binder with illustrations of healthy organs contrasting with organs affected by tobacco, interactive activities and questions related to tobacco use, a tobacco-free pledge sheet, and a take home bag with chewing gum and information on healthy alternatives to smoking.

"I'm just very excited to apply what I have learned in class to a real-life situation," Surges said. "Plus there is the added bonus of volunteering for a good cause and helping others at the same time."

Other lesson plans cover the importance of calcium in bone health for athletes, tips for stress management and a variety of other topics.

Other nursing students who will participate in the Aug. 8 event include Jessica Ludgatis, Hudson; Lisa Decker, Dorchester; Megan Klinner, Clayton; Janona Ahtamova, Uzbekistan; and Sherri Toelke, Augusta.

Kirkhorn and UW-Eau Claire clinical instructor Teresa Loftsgaarden also will volunteer with the students. The health promotion team will be led by Dr. Leah Ederer of Group Health Cooperative in Madison and health promotions clinical directors for Wisconsin Special Olympics Linda Petersen and Judy Stych, both of the Public Health Division of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

For more information on UW-Eau Claire nursing students' participation in the Special Olympics Outdoor Sports Tournament, contact Kirkhorn at 715-836-5005 or kirkholc@uwec.edu. Nursing students will be presenting at the Special Olympics event between 8 a.m. and noon Aug. 8.

-30-

NW/JP

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